Gort / Ivy


Gort and Muin form a pair, one looking outward and one inward. Both are different kinds of vines, and different kinds of self-knowledge. Although it has no thorns, Ivy is a bitter, dusty vine that can crumble walls and kill its support trees if it is left to grow unchecked. Gort must be treated with respect and balance.

Gort is the spiral labyrinth, symbol of the spiral search for self with the clear blue sky at its center. In the modern Irish language Gort means hunger or need. The message of the ogham Gort is that there are changes necessary before growth can begin or groundwork that is needed to facilitate balance and understanding. In the Ancient Irish mind, hunger and famine are inextricably linked. Hunger does not refer to the feeling you get just before a meal, but to the want of some necessary thing that cannot be supplied. In the hard time of the winter, hunger can easily become famine if the supplies of the tribe cannot be stretched until the spring. Hunger can also exist on the spiritual plane, and refer to the desire for learning, understanding, or the betterment of one’s life. The paired rune is Nyd, the need rune that says something is lacking.

If the necessary thing is not supplied, then the course of the life, the tribe, or the history of the land is altered. If the time of need is worked through, and the center is reached, then fulfillment and understanding are achieved. The fire festival of Imbolc is the seasonal point that has this meaning. It is not spring, but we can see spring at a distance in the center of the labyrinth. If all goes well, we will progress from the tipping of the year up the circle to the true point of balance at the Equinox and on to the bright half of the year.

The Sow is the animal symbol. Pigs in the ancient world were not the fat pink domestic animals we think of today, but semi-feral animals that foraged through the woods loosely watched by herdsman. They were a valuable source of food but could also be quite dangerous. One of the most potent and fearful Goddess images is the sow that eats her own young. Pigs are tender and very protective mothers, but if they are poorly cared for or put under too much stress or abused they may respond by neurotically eating their piglets.

We tend to think of self-discovery as an unreservedly good thing but, in fact, it is a path full of pitfalls. Shutting out the outside world and focusing on only our own thoughts, feelings, ideas, and needs can easily be addictive. This is the message of Gort reversed, to beware of selfishness and self-absorption. On the other hand, not listening to the distractions of the superficial world can free us to hear the music of the spheres or the trees singing the great ohmn, to see the blue sky in its lucid simplicity, and to find peace and balance. The message of Gort is «Know yourself by looking inward.»

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